Kindergarten and Learning to Let Go
By Leah Hasse
From the day my son was born, I knew that at some point, the time would come for him to venture out into the world without me by his side. For some reason I pictured that time as coming much, much later in his life. As my almost 4-year-old gets ready to start kindergarten next month, I can’t help but feel like my time at the center of his universe is about to come to a close, and that soon he will not just be mine.
Up until this point, I have crafted and/or observed every social interaction my son has ever had. I have been there to whisper tips on how to introduce himself to new kids, how to deal with bullies, and how to not be a bully himself. I have helped him to share, to step out of his comfort zone, and how to expect to be treated fairly by others. As he has stumbled through the complex toddler social structure, I have always been there to say, “It’s ok,” and to give hugs and kisses when needed. I push when he needs encouragement; I back off when he needs grace. No matter what, I am there. I am wanted and needed.
I often think of how important and crucial a parent’s influence is on his or her child, particularly in those first years. I think of how my children are carbon copies of my husband and myself. They share our personalities and they enjoy the things that excite us. It is easy to see how we have shaped them both intentionally and inadvertently. While I want my boys to grow into their own selves, I can’t help but smile when they take a second to feel the breeze and smell a flower just like their mama, or when they perform unprompted acts of kindness just like their daddy.
Grappling with the idea that someone else will begin to influence and shape my child honestly scares me. I am in the fortunate position where I have full confidence in my son’s school, but the thought of someone else imparting parts of herself onto my son still feels strange. The thought of him going to another person for questions and comfort hurts a little. I’m sure it sounds irrational, but when it comes to my children I am selfish. They are mine, and this first step in beginning to let go, to take a step back and trust, is a tough one. All through my son’s life I will be faced with more of these occasions. There will be more and more instances where I have to let go just a little more, until finally he will be a man. While I don’t expect it to ever get easier, I hope I can learn to handle the feeling that my son isn’t just mine anymore a bit more gracefully.
As I lay awake at night, thinking of the first day of kindergarten, I am afraid the language barrier will turn what could be a positive experience into a negative one. We live in a tiny village with few English speakers. None of the children at my son’s school speak English, nor do his teachers. While I have taken the time to teach him the basics, and am confident that he can at least say “no” if someone is bothering him, I know there’s nothing I can really do to prepare him for the mountain he is about to climb – his first solo trek into unknown territory.
I am afraid that the language barrier will make it hard for him to make friends. I am afraid he will feel alone and isolated. I am afraid he might act out or get aggressive after days and days of not being able to express himself. I fear my son will be misunderstood, or that his frustration will harden him. He is a fierce little thing, but he has a tender heart, and I hope his complexities are not overlooked or dismissed.
I understand that my worries are not unique. I know that the billions of parents to come before me have all felt my fears in one way or another. I have talked to dozens of parents who have already walked this journey of new schools and new languages. They have all reassured me and made me feel better by telling me how quickly kids this age learn new languages and adapt, but I still can’t calm my nerves.
That’s the funny thing about parenthood – it doesn’t matter how many people have already done it: it is always a new and unique experience, filled with unexpected joys and woes.
Luckily our kindergarten encourages parents to attend with their child until the child is ready to fully separate. While I expect to be right there with my son for the first few days, I know it will be harder for me than for him when he decides he doesn’t need me there anymore. Right now he begs me to go to school with him, but the day will come when he just wants to be dropped off without a kiss or hug. Then he will walk himself. One day he will drive himself. And then he will be on his own. His own place, his own job, his own life. No matter how old and independent he gets, my son will always be my baby, and right now I have to trust that I have done enough to prepare him for his first real taste of the world.
I am excited for my little boy to find his passions – for him to learn with awe and wonder, and to explore his interests. I can’t wait for him to learn to solve problems, jump hurdles, turn weaknesses into strengths, and to push the boundaries of what he now thinks are limitations. Kindergarten is the first step to his bright future, and while I mourn the end of an era, I also rejoice in getting to watch the growth that is to come.
Leah currently lives in Germany with her family. She loves everything related to the outdoors, and can often be found hiking or camping with her husband and two children. She enjoys traveling, studying languages, and taking random classes online to learn new skills. She hopes to use her writing to bring people together and to challenge biases surrounding motherhood.